The 6 Essential Health Exams Every Man Needs

The exams, screenings, and health visits men need at every stage of life.

men's health exam checklist for all ages

Men in the U.S., regardless of income or ethnicity, are less likely than women to regularly see a doctor for preventive care, research shows. Unfortunately, this often results in men not seeking medical care until a disease or health issue has advanced.

“There is no demographic that utilizes healthcare resources less than men between the ages of 18 and 45, followed closely by men ages 45 to 64,” says Dr. Joseph Alukal, a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital and an associate professor of urology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many men may have put off appointments for essential exams like prostate cancer screenings and colonoscopies. But, according to Dr. Alukal, it is as important as ever to make these health visits. That’s why he, along with other NewYork-Presbyterian physicians, are making it easier for men to keep up with their annual screenings by launching the Men’s Health Program in September, expanding access to high-quality care in Westchester and Manhattan.

“Now is a great time to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor whom you trust and can continue to see on a more regular basis going forward,” says Dr. Alukal. “Especially in a time like this when people are worried about the pandemic, you want to have a physician you trust and can rely on for help when or if you need it.”

Health Matters spoke with Dr. Alukal about what screenings and doctor’s visits men should have during each decade of their lives in order to stay as healthy as possible.

men's health exam checklist for 20s and 30s

Checklist for Men in Their 20s and 30s

  • Primary care visit: Once a year. “It’s important to have a relationship with a doctor you trust, whom you can check in with and figure out how to get screened or tested as soon as possible if needed,” says Dr. Alukal. “Even if you’re in your 20s and 30s and are generally healthy, take this opportunity to create a relationship with a doctor you are comfortable with.”
  • Blood test screening: Once a year. “The blood work that’s being done includes things like measurements of white and red blood cells, blood chemistry, blood sugar, and cholesterol,” says Dr. Alukal, explaining that this allows physicians to assess your risk for conditions like diabetes, kidney disorders, and heart disease.

Expert’s Take: Your primary care doctor might also perform other screenings, like a urine test, to check for kidney disorders, liver problems, and diabetes. “All these things together actually become a really good screening platform for things like diabetes, which causes so many other health problems, blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, and kidney failure, which can happen in a patient who has uncontrolled blood pressure,” says Dr. Alukal.

men's health exam checklist for 40s and 50s

Checklist for Men in Their 40s and 50s

  • Primary care visit: At least once a year or as often as needed.
  • Routine blood test screening: At least once a year or as often as needed.
  • Colonoscopy: With more young people being diagnosed and dying of colon cancer in recent years, the American Cancer Society recommends starting screening at age 45 —earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer. For those without a history of colon cancer, it’s generally recommended to get a colonoscopy every 10 years after the initial screening.
  • PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test: Once a year starting at age 55, or earlier if you have a family history of prostate cancer.
  • Skin cancer screening: Once a year. More frequently if there is a family history of skin cancer or a history of prolonged sun exposure.
  • Cardiology screening: At least once a year or as needed, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.

Expert’s Take: “The strong recommendation from the American Urological Association is to get a prostate exam and a PSA, a blood test that indirectly measures prostate cancer risk, at age 55,” says Dr. Alukal. “While the manual prostate exam is definitely something that patients need at least once a year once they turn 40, the PSA test has become a very controversial test and for good reason — it’s not perfect. That’s why I always encourage men, once they’re in their 40s, to speak with their doctor, share their family history of prostate cancer, if any, and move forward from there. Prostate cancer behaves differently than, say, colon cancer, so I recommend working with a urologist to determine when to start screening. You can then have the discussion about the PSA test, its risks and benefits, and whether you need to get one.”

men's health exam checklist for age 60 and older

Checklist for Men in Their 60s and Older

  • Primary care visit: At least once a year or as often as needed.
  • Routine blood test screening: At least once a year or as often as needed.
  • Colonoscopy: Varies for each individual and depends on family history of colon cancer and the colonoscopy results. For most people who are at average risk, once every 10 years after turning 45.
  • Prostate exam and/or PSA blood test: Once a year.
  • Skin cancer screening: Once a year. More frequently if there is a family history of skin cancer or a history of prolonged sun exposure.
  • Cardiology screening: At least once a year or as needed, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.

Expert’s Take: “I try to get patients in this age range to think of these visits as yearly tune-ups,” adds Dr. Alukal. “It’s like taking your car in for an oil change. What we’re trying to do is head off any problems before they happen.”

NewYork-Presbyterian’s Commitment to Men’s Health

The NewYork-Presbyterian Men’s Health Program is part of a hospitalwide effort to offer more men better care at earlier stages in their lives. Launching this month, the program will provide men comprehensive, multidisciplinary care in several convenient locations across NewYork-Presbyterian campuses, as well as virtual health visits through telemedicine.

“We wanted to create something where if a man needed a provider, he could easily and quickly access someone,” says Dr. Alukal. “Telemedicine was always a big factor in the program, but it’s even more important now given the COVID pandemic to be able to provide men the care they need at their fingertips.”

A collaboration between primary care physicians, urologists, and cardiologists from NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Westchester, the program offers care across Westchester County, Manhattan, and the surrounding boroughs.

Says Dr. Alukal: “Our goal is to make it easier to access high-quality care and to help men become healthy and keep them healthy.”

Additional Resources

Joseph Alukal, M.D., is a urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He is also an associate professor of urology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is directing the core team behind the Men’s Health Program, which will launch September 2020.